Dear Incarnation people
Today is Advent 3, a day when we are reminded of the Joy that God offers through Jesus Christ. I love taking time each week to slowly light the Advent candles. I love that they are associated with peace, hope, joy and love. I love that finally we come to the moment when we light the Christ candle - remembering that while we wait in Advent, we wait with intentionality.
This season we are even more aware of waiting then ever before - waiting for this pandemic to please be over!
This year has been so full of twists and turns, and I have been so grateful for the ways you have all flexed and adjusted as we have ridden the rollercoaster! Our staff Amy, Josie, Beth and now Katie have creatively and ingeniously found solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems, aided and abetted by Katie F and Clayton and many many others. We have found ways to worship, found ways to pray, found ways to care for each other through a broad array of circumstances.
I think the English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller was the first person to publish writing with the phrase 'the darkest hour is just before the dawn'. And as we now anxiously wait for vaccines and the moment when the virus will become history, there is a bit of a feeling around that we are entering some dark hours.
At Incarnation, whenever we evaluate our worship protocols we do so mindful of a few guiding principles: that we want every person in our community and neighborhood to be as safe as possible, that we want everyone to be able to access a meaningful way of worshipping in community and that we trust God to bind us together even while we are apart.
And so, we have been leaning into ways of keeping our worship safe and accessible over these next few months and we have decided to make some changes. In addition, the Governor has ordered some new directives, which we have welcomed as guidance to help us make decisions about what seems best for us and for our neighbors.
The main decision is whether to lead the service from the Chapel or on zoom. The latest Virginia directive states that no gathering should exceed 10 people, and that everyone over the age of 5 should be masked. This advice seems to be wise, but it has implications. Until now we have allowed our leaders to remove their masks when preaching and leading; to do so masked would be hard, without facial expressions and with muffled speech. One huge advantage of leading and preaching over zoom is that we ALL get to see each other's faces. There are other advantages of returning to being on zoom, it becomes a lighter lift week by week for our staff, we have equity of access for everyone and more. Although churches are offered exemptions to the number cap, we feel that for all the other reasons this is not a route we want to head in. So zoom it is!
For most of you - NOTHING WILL CHANGE! Sunday services will be at 11am as always on Zoom. Garden churches will continue to happen when the weather is fair (always capping at 10 people max.). BUT from Dec 20 we will ALL be on zoom at 11am. We will no longer be recording in the chapel.
The Advent Wonder and Carolling event that was originally planned for 9.30am next Sundayhas morphed into a Community Carol Night at 5pm Dec 20 instead! Do you have a favorite carol, or perhaps a poem or painting or memory to share? Sign on at 5pm next Sunday ready to sing and rejoice!
Dec 24: Join us on zoom at 4pm - if you have a nativity scene, can you have it to hand?
Dec 25: Join us in your pjs at 9am :) We will joyfully give thanks together for our Savior’s birth!
Dec 27: we will carry on… on zoom …. until at least January 31 when the governor’s ordinance will be up for renewal. Then we will reevaluate in the light of progress with vaccines and when we hope infection rates will hopefully be slowing down.
This is certainly going to be a year we remember for a very long time. And as we do head into this next phase, let me remind you to reach out to your neighbors again. Offer to get their groceries. Sweep their leaves. Invite them to zoom church. Help them know that they are seen and known and perhaps they will learn that there is a God who sees and loves them too.
Isaiah 35:10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
With a thankful heart,